Dutch air space will remain closed until at least 14:00 on Saturday morning (local time), owing to the cloud of volcanic ash still floating above much of northern Europe. The Transport and Water Management inspectorate made the announcement on Friday afternoon. However, the chance that many aircraft will be able to take to the air on Saturday is slight.
EUROCONTROL, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, expects European air traffic to remain at a standstill on Saturday. The organisation says the ash cloud is now spreading over a larger area. By Saturday morning, it is expected to reach southern France, northern Italy and the northern Balkans.
In the meantime, more and more European airports are shutting down. London's Heathrow remains closed, as does Frankfurt in Germany - one of Europe's largest airports - and Charles de Gaulle in the French capital, Paris. Altogether, 16 countries have been affected to some degree by the cloud. The air space above seven of those countries has been shut down completely.
Dutch air space closed at 18:00 on Thursday evening, stranding 90,000 passengers at Amsterdam's Schipol airport. Airlines found hotels for as many of their customers as they could. Airport authorities provided camp beds for passengers who couldn't find a hotel room.
European Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas says European Union citizens will be able to obtain replacement tickets or refunds from the airlines concerned. Stranded passengers also may have the right to food, drink and accommodation. However, travellers have no right to an extra compensation of 250 euros. This is because the cloud can be considered a 'force majeure' (or Act of God) and that in such cases the extra compensation no longer applies.
Peter Hartman, CEO of the Netherlands' KLM airline has estimated the financial damage suffered by his company - because of cancelled flights and the costs of finding accommodation for stranded passengers - at between five and ten million euros a day. He added that the company is not insured against Acts of God and that the cloud's effects have been 'reasonably disastrous'.
Read more about the ash cloud here.
© Radio Netherlands Worldwide